Even the great French literary, weekly, purveyor of all things sports, L’Equipe was there for the occasion. It was a media frenzy like nothing before, as Thierry Henry, a true great of the modern game was introduced to the Montreal media as the Impact’s new head coach this morning at Centre Nutrilait.
The little auditorium was packed full for the event, a row of TV cameras stretching the width of the room, behind the last row of seating. Impact members sat with press-man and ladies, as the French World Cup winner was led down the steps by President and CEO, Kevin Gilmore and flanked behind by Olivier Renard, the club’s relatively new Sporting Director (What a first major acquisition for him this was!) And all against the backdrop of the snow-covered terrain of the Impact training ground and temperatures around -7.
Maybe not the landscape Thierry Henry is best used to, and if his early demeanour betrayed what became for him an exercise in ‘smooth’ punctuated by bouts of humour, then who cares? The Frenchman was confident, bi-lingually well-spoken, and joked about the Montreal public being nicer than their French counterparts (down to the ‘moody’ gene, apparently).
A short-lived sense of bashfulness lasted only as long as Kevin Gilmore’s introduction. Once Henry was invited to speak to his new audience, he seemed immediately at home and in control. His answers were assured, articulate and measured.
He didn’t dodge the Monaco questions, preferring to remain positive, explaining he learned a lot during his short tenure in the principality.
“It didn’t work out there. But for me the way I look at it always, either you win or you learn. I learned a lot there. It’s about coming back always. It’s been the story of my life and it’s the [same] story for everybody. You have to get up and be in front of whatever happened. The only mistake you can make is not learning from what happened.
“It was a great learning process for me and I am very positive about what’s going to happen with this club [Montreal Impact].”
Henry added that he learns the most and finds out more about himself by going through tough situations, rather than during the many positive, career highlights he’s experienced.
“I don’t like to talk about my career, but I’ll go back a little bit. You guys always remember good stuff. Well, I became a better player in the darkness. That’s when you start to be a better player. You guys remember the great moments and [so on], but that’s not where you become a great player. So hopefully [similar experiences] will help me to become a great coach.”
“We all fall. But it’s how we get back up that really matters.
“It’s about fighting, all the time. Not only my story, but the story of everybody in life.
Style of Play
Remi Garde famously said during his intro to the press two years ago, he wanted to preside over a team that would possess the ball, a statement which became somewhat of a rod for his back. His sides, despite an encouraging end to his first season, never really reached this initial aspiration.
Henry similarly put forward what he wants to see from his players.
“The fans want to see people [players] caring about where they are and caring for the club they play for, and that’s what I want to try to put into this team, with the style that I like, which is very in your face, very direct, trying to put pressure [on the opposition], playing out from the back and having a Plan B because this league is ruthless sometimes.”
For those who might’ve thought for Thierry Henry to come to North America as a coach, it would be a case of returning to his MLS roots in New Jersey, he had this to say ...
“You take the best part of Europe and the best part of the continent here, North America, you are really arriving in Montreal.
“It is the perfect bridge. The city is so diverse, people come from everywhere. But first and foremost they are from Montreal and they are Quebecois. That’s what I felt since 2011, every time I came here. It also meant I was playing with the Red Bulls, so I was also feeling something different also, which is normal, but the city is just outstanding.
“Food outstanding, restaurants outstanding and the people: they are just crazy because, you know, in France sometimes we are a bit moody, but you guys are not here, so nice to see.
“Seriously though, people are kind, very welcoming and you can feel it. It is an amazing feeling, it is an amazing town. I have not had the time to see too much this time around, but I’m looking forward to living in this city.”
A charm-offensive perhaps, but you felt this came from the heart.
Cool, calm and collected was Monsieur Henry as he faced the media.
The Impact has been highly imaginative in its latest high profile move. The signing last season of Bojan Krkic was, with respect, a smaller step in the right direction, and this latest development the most significant since a certain Ivorian walked through the front doors of Stade Saputo in 2015.
Top players do not always make top coaches, in fact more often they don’t, but the mere presence of one of the greatest players of our time in the Montreal dug-out, assures that dull moments should be a rare commodity in 2020.